So… I grew up in a military family. Ha! It’s painfully and juxtapositionally obvious, but also perplexing to most in my path. My Dad retired from the United States Air Force as a full Colonel. Many of my memories around Dad and his own measure of success – not to mention his influence over me are often detailed in this Blog. By reference, and an apparent favorite: do not miss your Chance to blow it.
However, I cam face-to-face with a relevant application of his example and influence from long ago just yesterday.
Setting the stage…
Early on, living the life of a scion of the Officer’s Club, I was exposed to the cream of the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command, and learned what those gallant men and women meant when they lived and died by the credo: “Peace is our Profession”. without realizing it at the time I came to appreciate experience, expertise and the chain-of-command. I witnessed first-hand, the synergy employed and enjoyed by gray-haird General’s mixing daily with fresh-faced 2nd Lieutenants, all firm in the belief their lives and contributions made a vital difference to one another, and the sanctity of our Constitution.
This means it never occurred to me that age, in-of-itself, was relevant. Only performance; and, all of it driven by courtesy and respect, and the call to action around a shred purpose. None were judged by anything but their ability to command and take commands that resulted, daily, in an efficient process that enabled them all to put their very lives into one another’s hands, without a second thought.
For example, I’ve never looked at an older man and saw weakness or lack of relevance. I saw only the likely potential of wisdom based upon one experience or another.
On the other hand, it’s never occurred to me to look at young people, as relative as that term has to be, and saw a lack of potential or ability.
Mind you… I’ve had my own adventures, hinted to in this Blog as well, but understood by only a few. But, my most recognized contributions have come through my duties as a Dad – and, that of a business man, that others approach for advice, guidance and stewardship.
And, for the first time in my business life, Friday in fact, I came face-to-face with a small team of burgeoning entrepreneurs, still in college, that invaded my offices – with the intention of enforcing accountability.
I’m in the midst of acquiring another startup that I’m convinced has a product that is a marketing-oriented game-changer. These soon-to-be-graduates are currently customers of the company. They are not pleased with the progress of their unique project. Our people say there is “scope-creep”. The customer says there is poor communication and missed deadlines. I want customer satisfaction and, thusly, affirmation of my investment.
Time will tell all.
But, in any event, at the large table in my board room, I found myself with three hearty and ferocious businessmen that, by age alone, qualified them to be my children. Although their graduation from college is imminent, with less than two months to go, they seemed small to me. And, they were naive, to be sure. But, eager and passionate, more importantly. And, they were irate over what to them was a lack of accountability on the part of the company. That is something that I’m unaccustomed too. My own ventures to date have been the example and hall-marks of accountability and service. So, I started the meeting open-minded. I coach soccer teams that are now at the U14 and U16 age bracket (and, they were all once at the U11 bracket). But, this was different. The first thought was mental arithmetic. I had started my own business at nineteen, also while in college (with the help of my Grandad’s money). I sold that business a week after graduation. So, I could, at many levels, relate to these young men.
But, I was biased. I knew it right away. Not defensive because they were displeased with a company I was involved with. No… I was actually age-biased.
I liked them well enough. I put them into the hands of a Project Manager that I’m mentoring myself, and even bought the entire lot lunch. We committed to deadlines and will work, with intent and a will, to see those critical deadlines met – all based upon collaboration.
But, this is me now. I’ll be fifty in October. I know I’m fitter than most. I’m always being sized-up by representatives of every generation; and, this group was no exception. I could do fifty pull-ups (I have the bar across the doorway of my office) with them hanging onto my back. And, that is how I viewed the entire matter… I’ll sling that crew over my should and see them to success. But, along the way I have to recognize that I’m going to be seeing more people that are younger than me, than older – and, my role in the business community is going to evolve, but possibly in ways I might not have considered before now.
So, every turn creates another opportunity to learn. But, also a challenge to be that example I experienced and have tried to live by daily, sitting at the feet of men that strode like giants around the world and taught me compassion, respect and accountability.
I’ll pause here and admit that I was sorely tested, a few times, to admonish them with a firm: “Stop interrupting each other”, and, “Please stop chewing on my business card”. But, they were, from their own perspective, probably working with an “old dude” with a big reputation for the first time in their emerging professional lives.
My own daughter, Haley Anne’s visage was flashing before my eyes. So to, were the eager faces of the students at Radford University, Georgia State and MIT, where I get to lecture from time-to-time came to mind. I’ll add my plans around “brian’s BEANS” as well. And, so that stage continues to be set, and my experiences are new and levied by other new things – including newer people and opportunities.
And, all these younger people are going to hold me accountable.
I’l have it no other way as they teach me and make me better and fitter to represent and reflect every talent God can squeeze into, and out of, me. This is where the Heterodox finds itself.
Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.
Brian Patrick Cork